My experience is that the unborn life is my child to love. The baby moves, has a heartbeat, his own DNA.
I’m going to share a poem I wrote thirty years ago. I am not a particularly accomplished poet. I used to write more; now I manage to come up with about one a year for Mr. Political Sphere for Valentine’s Day. But during the childbearing years I wrote enough that I have a small collection of them I refer to as The Motherhood Poems. This one is from my first pregnancy, about the beginning of the second trimester. I was reading parenting magazines and learning all I could about this new passion and calling. One of the books I read detailed development you could expect at each week’s gestation. That is the essence of the poem below, my first conversation with this child—a boy, but we didn’t know that until birth, back before ultrasounds were as clear as they are today.
This child I was talking to was born about two and a half months later—more than three months early. We got to hold him for only a matter of hours, with all kinds of tubes hooked up to him in hopes of overcoming the first hurdle—breathing. After thirteen hours, we realized we weren’t going to get that miracle and had to say goodbye. But there were some profound things I learned about developing life from that difficult experience.
I learned that a baby can look complete and perfect when born at 23 weeks. He was small, a little over a foot, a little under two pounds. But he looked fully human—enough that we could recognize him and see features of family members that he resembled. I think he may have looked a lot like my husband’s paternal grandfather, who was near 90 at the time. The spirit that was in my baby made him so completely alive and lovable. Days later at the funeral home, my mother-in-law was there with me to see how they had dressed him and prepared the casket. I remember wanting to share with her how beautiful he had been alive, how less than him the tiny remaining body was. I couldn’t express it.
In our religion we believe we will live together as families again after we die; he is not completely lost to us. There are times when I have seemed to see him in my mind, looking grown up, tall like my other boys and his dad. My daughter has a similar vision of him and describes him as I would; she even remembers eye color, which I cannot.
I believe this: my young son was alive within me; he was alive those few hours with us; and as a resurrected human being he lives yet again. His whole person is even more important to our Heavenly Father than he has been to me. Life of this little angel was such a blessing to have. His life matters.
So here is the poem:
Twelfth Week Talk
It’s strange to me not knowing you,
So close in proximity.
I know my love is growing along with you,
But we haven’t talked together before now.
I’ve read about you; yes, a little.
This week you’re growing fingernails.
Good luck with that endeavor;
I still have trouble growing mine.
And I saw you, a sort of picture
On a screen the doctor showed me.
I saw your head and form
Enlivened by a heartbeat—and mine quickened.
Yes, now I know you’re more than indigestion.
So much more that I panic weekly
That I may not be grown up enough
For you to grow from me.
It’s only perspective now that separates us,
Now you know what I have long forgotten.
And I know what you’ve yet to feel.
Remember where you are—will you, for me?
If you remember, then you will know
Why you must hurt and hunger here.
But I will hold you;
I will fill your hunger while I can.
I will teach you to remember
That where you are is love-filled home,
For here we fill our home with love
In that same, not quite forgotten tradition.
I’ve enjoyed this little talk.
We’ll do this again soon
So I can help you feel at home in the neighborhood
Until you’re ready to meet more of it.
August 24, 1982